Sunday, July 09, 2017

Okinawan municipal leaders fear US exceptions to SOFA may set dangerous precedent

June 30, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo
On July 7 the Trilateral Liaison Council concerning U.S. Kadena Air Base, which consists of Kadena Town, Okinawa City, and Chatan Town, will go to Tokyo. There, the council will submit its appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Ministry of Defense (MOD), requesting that parachute drop training at Kadena Air Base be discontinued and that use of the former U.S. Navy aircraft parking apron be prohibited. Four representatives of the Okinawa Prefectural government and other municipal government bodies will unite, proclaiming that they will not allow exceptions being made to the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee Agreement.
Up until now the prefectural government has taken the standpoint that parachute drop training should be carried out in accordance with the intent of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) final report, and has not yet gone so far as to allude to prohibition of this training at Kadena Air Base. However, based on local feeling in the three aforementioned municipalities, which is due to training being forcibly conducted again and again, the prefectural government has come to request that the training be discontinued.

When the council submits its appeal to the MOFA and MOD on July 7, it will inquire about setting up interviews with both ministers. Since the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee (2+2) meeting is scheduled for the week after, the council will also address its appeal at the meeting and consult with U.S. representatives.
On the evening of June 29 at the Prefectural Office, Governor Takeshi Onaga, head of the Trilateral Liaison Council and mayor of Okinawa City Sachio Kuwae, mayor of Kadena Town Hiroshi Toyama, and mayor of Chatan Town Masaharu Noguni together disclosed their intentions in an interview. For the governor and three liaison council leaders to meet altogether prior to submitting an appeal is unusual. Governor Onaga said that the obvious inconsistencies between the application of the SACO agreement and its intent are intolerable.
Head of the Trilateral Liaison Council Kuwae claimed that the U.S. military has audaciously and easily tossed aside the idea of reducing the burden on local inhabitants. He said, “I recognize the importance of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, but on principle the degree of the base burden should have been further reduced by now.”
Mayor Toyama is greatly concerned that the training conducted in disregard of the SACO agreement will normalize this sort of activity in the future. Therefore, he considers this matter of utmost importance.
Mayor Noguni said that up to this point all the rules have been disregarded and furthermore freely leveraged. He thinks the Japanese government should review the contents of the SACO agreement once more, and uphold its rules.
(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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